According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job vacancies in the U.S. have touched a high of 8.1 million on the last business day of March. But disheartened, and discouraged job seekers are still hesitant to get back into the workforce, leaving positions unfilled. Before the start of the pandemic last year, the job openings were up to 10 million but drastically fell below 6% in May 2020, forcing businesses to shut down and reduce their workers. Now with the increase in vaccinations, job postings are getting back to their pre-COVID highs. But, to a greater extent, employers and business owners are baffled that are not able to fill up their open positions.
This bar graph from ZipRecruiter clearly shows that labor force participation rates are slow-paced as job postings surge.
There may be multiple factors contributing to what is happening.
1. Despite the influx of remote work transitions, many jobs still require working onsite. According to ZipRecruiter, right now, approximately 60% of job seekers want home-based job opportunities, but only about 9% of the job vacancies are explicitly offering that opportunity. This may be contributing to the problematic job gap. Employers are having a hard time filling in-person positions, and job seekers struggle to find work they feel safe doing.
2. People located in high-density cities are moving out to avoid close proximity, higher cost of living, or even to gain back freedom from mandated lock downs. Even then, some research shows that the mismatch between the geographic location of the talent and vacancies available, even in the same town, will lead to fewer vacancies being filled.
3. Employees who lost or left jobs during the pandemic are still hesitant to return because they do not want to risk exposing themselves or loved ones and would prefer not to go back into the workforce before the pandemic ultimately ends.
4. Many older generational employees were pushed out of the workforce with many having to put in for early retirement, or not having much retirement at all but a higher health risk.
5. Many job openings are unable to pay more than the expanded unemployment aid. 67% of unemployed are getting more than they usually earned while working. Therefore, many small businesses complain that there is a lack of applicants, and quite a few people are no-shows for the interviews.
Even though we may be at the mercy of the economy, there are some recruiting strategies that may alleviate your vacancy struggles and surely make your business stand out to job seekers during this time.
One Up Your Strategy
Incorporate Health and Safety into your recruitment process. First, candidates need to be assured that their health and safety are a priority to the company. Though it may not seem like the most important, many candidates have traumatic memories of COVID procedure failures from their previous employer, that they are keeping in mind what your organization is doing to maintain an employee’s safety. Even with vaccinations and some of the economy opening back up, candidates want to feel that the company is better prepared from the experience. On the job ad, talk about the organization's new procedures, and how risk is reduced while interacting in the workplace.
Offer attractive incentives. An easy answer would be to offer more pay, but from a small business perspective, that is not always a great fit for the budget. This can also leave small businesses less competitive in the market. Try some alternative incentives that will not break the bank and further engage your employees. Look into incentives such as an appealing workplace culture, an active employee recognition program, gift cards & swag, or learning & development opportunities. Share the incentives on your career site and during interviews.
Look into hiring transferable skills. Often times hiring managers want candidates who checks all the boxes and dots all the “I’s”. However, some applicants may not fit into that square box, but have a good reason for applying for your open vacancy. Transferable skills are acquired over time while on the job or during a form of training that can be beneficial to your organization’s role. This can be skills as simple as communication, problem solving, and being tech savvy. A sales professional skill in establishing relationships and understanding the product or service can easily be transferred into a recruitment professional that builds rapport with candidates and can sell the excitement of a position.
There are many underlining challenges faced as a reaction to the pandemic. But by shifting with the needs of candidates, organizations can set themselves up to attract and retain.